It’s been a long, cold rainy winter this year in California. But it could get worse — much worse. The USGS warned this past week that California is in the eye of a winter storm weather pattern that could be more disastrous than a major earthquake.
They’re calling it the ARkstorm Scenario — a reference, one might guess, to a storm of biblical proportions. As envisioned by the models, the ARKstorm would produce a month long of precipitation on the order of what’s seen every 500 to 1,000 years, causing the flood evacuation of 1.5 million people and property damage worth $725 billion.
Discovery News had a nice summary of the science behind the rainfall pattern, known as an “atmospheric river.”
The last time California experienced such a flood was during the winter of 1861-62, when nearly 40 days of rain flooded out the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley for 300 miles. Homes and bridges were swept away and one-quarter of the state’s cattle drowned. In the worst places, like Sacramento, water reached 15 feet high, according to this harrowing account in the New York Times.
The Bay Area has the potential to be highly impacted, although not to the degree of inland communities. Still, the UGSG predicted “serious flooding” and hurricane-force winds of 125 mph.
California is, no doubt, wholly unprepared to deal with this kind of flooding. And maybe this other “Big One” is just another disaster that’s hard to worry about, let alone wrap our minds around. Still, apocalypse is always worth a moment of imagination and a reminder that the ground we stand on is not so solid after all.